Professor Publishes and Presents on “The Piracy Paradox and Indigenous Fashion”

Aman GebruAn article by Assistant Professor of Law Aman Gebru was recently published by the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, one of the top journals for intellectual property law scholarship. As the title The Piracy Paradox, and Indigenous Fashion implies, it examines the "piracy paradox," a highly influential theory arguing that, despite the common presumption that creativity and innovation suffer in the face of copying, the fashion industry benefits from piracy. This publication was an invited piece, as part of a special series that celebrated the 15th anniversary of the original article (Kal Raustiala & Christopher Sprigman, The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Prop-erty in Fashion Design, 92 VA. L. REV. 1688 (2006)).

Gebru has been interested in analyzing intellectual property law for more than a decade. His interest began when he was a law student and discovered that most of the patent rights in the world exist in a handful of jurisdictions.

"Most other countries do not have an active intellectual property law system, which led me to question whether that meant they did not have creativity and innovation or whether it meant that intellectual property laws did not capture the types of creativity and innovation that were present in those countries," he said.

In this current publication Gebru examines how applicable the piracy paradox theory is in the context of indigenous fashion and more broadly traditional cultural expression.

"It categorizes indigenous fashion as those open to commercialization and those closed to it. With some important caveats, the article suggests that the piracy paradox may encourage creativity in indigenous fashion that is open to commercialization. However, ‘tolerance of unauthorized copying' which is at the core of the piracy paradox thesis, does not seem to exist in the case of sacred or restricted indigenous fashion," Gebru said.
He explained that instead of resulting in more creativity, unauthorized copying of restricted indigenous fashion has created the issue of "cultural appropriation" and a relationship of mistrust between source communities and mainstream designers.

Gebru's article concludes by suggesting that recognizing enforceable cultural rights, creating professional ethical principles, and implementing corporate social responsibility standards can create a harmonious relationship between indigenous communities and mainstream fashion designers.

The article was recently listed on the top-ten download list on the popular Social Sciences Research Network's electronic journals for Intellectual Property: Other eJournal and Intellectual Property: Trademark Law eJournal.

This paper was presented by Gebru as part of a symposium organized by the journal editors in April 2021. There, he presented to a panel that included the authors of the original article and other scholars writing for the same series. The symposium was attended by nearly 100 students and scholars from across the United States.

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